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(For a limited time, Open Five is available to stream for free online at the filmmaker’s official website. It just won Best Narrative Feature at the 2010 Indie Memphis Film Festival.)

Memphis-based filmmaker Kentucker Audley’s second film of 2010 (the other is Holy Land) is an exquisitely crafted, intimate slice-of-life glance into the stagnant world of Jake (played by Jake Rabinbach), a Memphis-based musician whose band and personal relationship seem to be suffering the same static fate. After meeting Lucy (Shannon Esper) in Brooklyn, Jake invites her back to Memphis for a weekend getaway. When she and her friend Rose (Genevieve Angelson) arrive, nothing goes as planned, and love doesn’t blossom so much as it chokes on indecision. Attraction is in the air, but Jake and Lucy can’t seem to get past their own personal hang-ups (whether it is his slacker-ish ambivalence or her indecisiveness towards a long-distance relationship).

Unabashedly earnest in its depiction of late-20s/early 30s languor, Open Five smartly relies on reticence and leaves so many of the characters’ thoughts unspoken. On a certain level, it is uncertain if the characters ever really solidify their feelings or even begin to understand them. On her first night in Memphis, Lucy awkwardly (but obviously) evades Jake’s invitation to sleep in his bed by offering to crash in the living room with Rose. But when Jake later confronts her about it, she seemingly happily agrees to join him. It is the beginning (and far from the end) of their emotional ping-pong game.

Open Five was shot by Alexander the Last director Joe Swanberg, and while both films share a certain tendency towards naturalistic acting, Audley and Swanberg each have their own thing going for them, and their styles don’t overlap. Whereas Alexander the Last featured emotionally piercing dialogue from its characters, Open Five favors hesitancy and spot-on imprecision. At a party, Rose clumsily leaves a conversation by saying to two people, “Good luck on your job, and good luck finding one.” We see her searching and failing for a graceful exit—the sort of moment we all beat ourselves up over the next morning. Later, Lucy will try to explain to Jake her resistance to reigniting their relationship by saying, “It just feels different,” while he implores that, “I’m just trying to understand.” Neither can elaborate beyond those basic expressions, but the simplicity of their words makes them resonate all the more.

Tightly edited to 66 minutes, Open Five has the epic intimacy of weekend nights that seem to stretch beyond the actual brevity of time. Its strong core cast of Rabinbach, Esper, Angelson, and Audley himself (who plays one of Jake’s friends who happens to be a filmmaker) hits all the right notes at all the right times. It is another success for director Audley, whose debut film, Team Picture (available on DVD from Benten Films), earned him a spot on Filmmaker Magazine’s 2007 list of “25 New Faces of Independent Film.”

— Cullen Gallagher

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Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based film and literary critic who also writes for The L Magazine and Not Coming to a Theater Near You. An active composer and musician, he has also written music for films, and directed several music videos. More information on his music is available at He also has a dish named after him at Jimmy’s Diner in Williamsburg.

  • mr. gallager, what drugs are you taking? this movie is horrible on multiple levels. the idea is dumb. it’s almost the most boring movie i’ve ever seen. the videography is amateur. the acting is worse than amateur. all in all, this movie looks and feels like it was made by a pretentious hipster that doesn’t know a thing about telling a good story.

    i just don’t get why you, the press, waste your time writing about mumblecore movies. there are hundreds, if not thousands of more deserving movies to write about.

    if mr. audley is a “new face” of indie film, then indie film is dead.

    November 8, 2010
  • Frank

    RE: PHILBERT… You just don’t get it, maaaaan… no, seriously, you are dead-on. I just struggled through 15 minutes of that ‘film’, followed by a skip through the rest of it stopping on random scenes to see if it got better and you are 100% right, if this is indie film, no wonder indie film is dead. WHY do movies like this capture the attention of the indie press? It’s almost like this weird, sado-masochistic, wannabe taken seriously, pretentious… every word in the book to describe those that want to scratch their chin and stare at a blank canvas as though it’s, ‘like… deep, man’. What a crock… keep pushing this garbage. Any person with actual taste can tell right away that it’s phony art.

    November 10, 2010
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